I have just been informed that there is a new phenomenon overtaking America: the Pirate re-enactors. Due to the Disney pirate movies with Mr. Depp, those in need of grease paint and pantaloons now have an outlet. Arrggh, is the mantra--so avast yee maties and start sharpening your cutlass. Now you want to board ship before the Jimmie Buffet-Barmy-Army beats you. There’s nothing worse than joining a new fad after it has become homogenized by the “followers” of fashion; after they think it is safe and coalitional (grandparents and children in tow).
Sorry Jimmy—the music was great and the shows were cool, before the all the squares started drinking the Kool-Aid!
The investiture today is disposed toward the Keith Richards/Johnny Depp transliteration of history. But I’m sure that before long, the costumery will be available at concession stands: tee shirts, beards, hats, and cutlasses. Get the Kool-Aid ready.
So what’s wrong with having a little fun? Well, nothing really. I just wish that people wouldn’t wait till it has become sanctioned. I remember trying to get my father to listen to Jimmy Buffett for years, but it wasn’t until my cousins and his sister-in-law (well beyond middle age) jumped on the “parrot head” band wagon that he started to listen to the music. He fell in love with it. I guess my sentiment was too aboriginal for him. It had to become rudiment ally tenable.
Which leads me to…
I spent a lot of time in my youth in the West Indies. If any pirate movie has any relevance to me, it would be “A High Wind in Jamaica.” This movie captured what a pirate’s life would be like better than any other pirate film could. Every time I see it, it activates my memories of sailing from island to island on a three mast wooden ship (all true), with dolphin riding the bow wake and flying fish scampering over the water as if racing us onward. My childhood retrospection includes sugar mills, mongoose, and chewing raw cane for the liquid extract. When on the island of St. Lucia, my friend Craig and I would swim across Marigot Bay to climb on the large fiberglass snail shell (left behind by the people who filmed the movie Dr. Doolittle there).
On the island of Barbados, we took a day trip to the south side of the island to visit Sam Lord’s castle. He was a real pirate who would hang lanterns in the coconut trees around his estate, to lure passing ships far out at sea, thinking that it was the port city of Bridgetown and would sail towards the reef. The ships would wreck on the reef. Sam Lord and his men would then board the ships and steal the riches. I remember the house well. It had a large turtle pond that I was convinced had something to do with a hidden treasure. I would walk off paces from the well toward the pond, sure that I could figure out the hidden location of pirate booty. Remember, I was just a kid. A kid in the Caribbean, though.
Back, to recommending music. I still have a record that I bought when I was kid. It is called “Caribbean Treasure Chest,” by the Merrymen--featuring Emile Straker, Robin Hunte, Stephen Fields, and Chris Gibbs. One of their songs is called, “The Legend of Sam Lord.”
He used to hang de lanterns
On de coconut trees
And lure the ships upon de reef
And when de sailors thought
They’d sighted land,
Alas they ran aground
Alas they ran aground!
I have no idea if this record can be found anywhere. My copy is from when I bought it in the 60s. Emile’s voice is one of the best I have ever heard, especially on “Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma.” The record is one of the few that I used to pull out of the stack, in the past, when three-sheets-to-the-wind and lying on the floor (Semi-comatose) listening to music. The steel drum songs remind me of the same one’s I was introduced to on Barbados--when I first saw those old Pan-Am barrels played on for my first time.
If you can find it, tape it (or whatever it is they do these days) and bring it with you poolside on your next Caribbean vacation. The Jimmy thing is passé. Show off your new retro-calypso-chic music, that is the real-Caribbean deal.
Lastly, I hate to put Jimmy down. It’s the “Parrot Heads” I can’t stand! I still love “Barometer Soup.”